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Glia. 2006 Nov 15;54(7):676-90.

Astrocyte calcium elevations: properties, propagation, and effects on brain signaling.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7365, USA.


The possibility that astrocytes are involved in brain signaling began to emerge in the late 1970s, when it was first shown that astroglia in vitro possess numerous receptors for neurotransmitters. It was later demonstrated that cultured astroglia and astrocytes in situ respond to neurotransmitters with increases in intracellular second messengers, including cyclic AMP and calcium. Astrocyte calcium responses have since been extensively studied both in culture and in intact tissue. We continue to gather information regarding the various compounds able to trigger astrocyte calcium increases, as well as the mechanisms involved in their initiation, propagation as a calcium wave within and between astrocytes, and effects on signaling within the brain. This review will focus on each of these aspects of astrocyte calcium regulation, and attempt to sort out which effects are more likely to occur in developmental, pathological, and physiological conditions. While we have come far in our understanding of the properties or potential of astrocytes' ability to signal to neurons using our array of pharmacological tools, we still understand very little regarding the level of involvement of astrocyte signaling in normal brain physiology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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